Tag Archives: microplastic pollution

Small but Mighty: New Research on the Impacts of Microplastics

A guest post by Erica K. Brockmeier

The following post is one of a series generated from research presented at the SETAC Europe Annual Meeting in Brussels, Belgium (7-11 May 2017). Each post features the latest research findings from SETAC scientists on emerging topics of interest.

What are microplastics and why should we care about them?

Microplastics are pieces of plastic or polymer debris that are very small in size, ranging from a shard as narrow as the width of a hair to a piece as large as a marble. Microplastics include pieces of plastic that are broken down from larger items, such as single-use water bottles, or ‘microbeads’ that are added to certain soaps and exfoliators.

Even though microplastics are small, there are concerns they can cause serious damage. Animals that confuse microplastics for food can end up with internal lacerations, inflammation, and nutrient deficiency caused by eating too much inedible material. Microplastics are also widely spread across the globe—scientists calculated that up to 90% of marine birds have ingested microplastics.

microplastics

Microplastic particles among sand grains. Credit: 5Gyres, courtesy of Oregon State University, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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Microplastic Pollution, Lugworm Health, and Marine Ecosystems

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

Lugworm casts

Lugworm (Arenicola marina) casts, by Nick Veitch, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Lugworms (Arenicola marina) live in muddy sand – they’re a component of the food chain and fishermen look for them because they make great bait. Their presence is given away by the piles of sand (casts) deposited above the burrows in which they live. Each burrow has two openings at the surface. The worm draws sand into the burrow through one of the openings and, following digestion, expels the sand through the other opening, thus carrying out its ecosystem engineering duty – sediment turnover – across beaches on both sides of the North Atlantic.
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